To meet the definition of “mineral” used by most geologists a substance must meet five requirements:
- naturally occurring
- definite chemical composition
- ordered internal structure
- There are approximately 4000 different minerals and each of those minerals has a unique set of physical properties. These include: color, streak, hardness, luster, diaphaneity, specific gravity, cleavage, fracture, magnetism, solubility and many more. These physical properties are useful for identifying minerals. However, they are much more important in determining the potential industrial uses of the mineral.
Bearing in mind the numerous types of minerals, their benefits are very different and specific. Just a few examples are:
- The mineral talc, when ground into a powder is perfectly suited for use as a foot powder. It is a soft, slippery powder so it will not cause abrasion. It has the ability to absorb moisture, oils and odor. It adheres to the skin and produces an astringent effect – yet it washes off easily. No other mineral has a set of physical properties that are as suitable for this purpose.
- The mineral halite, when crushed into small grains is perfectly suited for flavoring food. It has a salty taste that most people find pleasing. It dissolves quickly and easily, allowing its flavor to spread through the food. It is soft, so if some does not dissolve it will not damage your teeth. No other mineral has physical properties that are better suited for this use.
- The mineral gold is perfectly suited for use in jewelry. It can be easily shaped into a custom item of jewelry by a craftsperson. It has a pleasing yellow color that most people enjoy. It has a bright luster that does not tarnish. Its high specific gravity gives it a nice “heft” that is preferred by most people over lighter metals.
- Before using any minerals, tell your doctor or pharmacist and ask for advice. Here are some examples of how minerals could be dangerous:
- CalciumThose with cancer or hyper-parathyroid disorder should not take calcium supplements.Interactions: Calcium supplements should not be taken if you are taking blood pressure lowering drugs, digoxin or tamoxifen. Calcium may decrease the absorption of certain other drugs and should therefore be taken at least 2 hours away from taking other drugs.
Interactions: Zinc supplementation should be avoided if taking amiloride, penicillamine, tetracycline, warfarin or fluoroquinolone antibiotics (e.g.ciprofloxacin)
Source: Geology, http://geology.com/minerals/what-is-a-mineral.shtml